The climatic change for few years we see in our areas, in the country and around the world is hurtling and it happened to be faster than what scientists had predicted some years back.
This year’s summer was dry and extremely hot in Pakistan and May’s highest temperature was recorded in Turbat. The climate change in highlands areas was also impactful. In the month of Mid-October and November, this year, rainfalls in some parts of Chitral and Gilgit Baltistan first time recorded autumn floods, of minor level, for which elders of the areas arguably don’t find instances, however, snowfall in these months has been common till near past.
IPPC and Living Planet report by World Wide Fund reveals wildlife population decline by more than half in less than 50 years. This report also features human as specie and its survival in this planet…? Anatole Lieven in his book had featured climate change first and most important problem of Pakistan in 2011, it’s now one amongst seven countries of the world most affected from climate change. Since agriculture contributes 18.9 to GDP, and employment to 45.1 percent population of the country both employability and food production may hit by it. CPEC—a game changer, has its long term plan lays focus on agriculture in terms of boosting yields, reducing losses from both harvest and transportation; making livestocks and dairy products more productive but the stress of climate change exactly ticking on this point in the country.
The PTI chief Imran Khan, now Prime Minister of Pakistan, at a rally had included environment in his 11 point agenda, and promised to plant 10b trees across the country. This year plantation drive started across country, earlier in KP province, is a positive step lauded widely in the country. Some experts have, however, questioned planting of thirsty trees-eucalyptus and conocarpus, in water stressed areas. This initiative, however, may add to existing thin forest cover, and help creating awareness about the importance of forests to our environment.
Chitral, particularly lower Chitral, has had a wide cover of natural vegetation of coniferous – plants grown mostly in highlands – that have excessively been cut down for firewood and construction purpose. This practice has been going on since before merger of the state of Chitral with Pakistan, and most of the wood is said to be smuggled out.
Excessively axing oak trees have a very slow growth level; according to a report around 50,000 tons a year for firewood should trigger local and governmental conscience to protect natural vegetation from extinction. Providing alternative affordable source(s) of energy, particularly LPG plants—were under consideration of previous federal government, may reduce this deforestation.
The semi-arid and arid bound Pakistan to face rising temperature, its impact on agricultural production, fruit production; and increasing vulnerabilities of floods in the highlands areas— northern areas and Chitral. It is not only drought hit fruit and crop productions in Chitral, past few years also attest this constant fall in production level. The dry conditions, according to a report of Met, caused water stress in agriculture areas of the country this year. It was not very surprising in the month of August, after a long spell of dryness; a flash flood washed Osiak Drosh in lower Chitral which made 27 families homeless. Those areas in Chitral which had limited water supply system(s)—yearly-snow-fed-glacial-water, have experienced water stress for crops and drinking. This year not only the people of Mori-Lasht and Mulkhow Warijun—sought media attention, but the whole mulkhow, Torkhow, some parts of Tehsil Mastuj, Lotkuh and Lower Chitral deficient of water resources, prematurely harvested crops, collected fruits and other agro-based productions. What seemingly probable in Chitral has turned out to be likely when crops and fruit produce— infected and diseased coupled with low yields, may be lowering nutritious content, has resulted when temperature crossed its optimum temperature range in the area, and water requirements to hit the maturity level of both crops and fruits remained unmet. It is yet to discover, in highlands areas, how concentration of carbon dioxide has reduced the protein and nitrogen levels of some crops, fruits nutritious levels, and contents in animal provender.
Since water scarcity increased in Chitral for crops and drinking, interestingly, a drive started to naming River Kabul as River Chitral, rather to press provincial government and civil society organizations finding ways and means to lift river water for crops and drinking in the areas. The possibility of lifting water, by solar-or-electricity-powered system, in most low-lying areas of upper and lower Chitral can easily be done. Originating from Chiantar Glacier, River Chitral, one of the major tributary on north-west flows into Afghanistan at village Arandu, contributes 10 to 12 percent of the flows of Indus water system benefits around 20m people, but the people of Chitral have not yet been able to get minimum benefit from it. Pakistan and Afghanistan both as co-riparian also predicted to be facing the adverse impact of climate change-induced large scale calamities from this river.
Since climate-driven vulnerabilities are high and risky for the areas and those people who depend on small-scale farming has resulted to overly using available resources. It also prompts impactful dynamics which affect crop and fruit production in the area. Working on improving water supply system and frugal exploiting available resources of the area has become a matter of necessity in the area for sustainable development.
The writer is M.Phil Research Scholar in the University of Peshawar.